Exxon Mobil Corp. violated federal law by failing to take appropriate action when five cats were exposed at its facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the US government said in a lawsuit.
According to the government, in January 2020, a black employee found a cat noose on his work site at a Baton Rouge complex operated by Exxon Mobil Corp. and reported it. At the time, the company was aware of three other moles found at the complex, but it failed to investigate all complaints and take steps to prevent such harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in its lawsuit filed Thursday.
Then, in December 2020, a fifth loop was discovered at the complex, which includes a chemical plant and a nearby oil refinery. Exxon Mobil’s lack of action created a racially hostile work environment, the EEOC said.
Todd Spitler, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said in a statement Sunday that the company disagrees with the EEOC’s allegations and that it “encourages employee(s) to report such claims, and we have thoroughly investigated them.”
“Hate speech is unacceptable, offensive and violates our corporate policies,” Spitler said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace by or against employees, contractors, suppliers or customers.”
Employers who become aware of racially offensive or threatening behavior in the workplace have a legal obligation to take “prompt remedial action to stop it,” Rudy Sustaita, an attorney for the EEOC’s Houston district office, said in a statement.
Elizabeth Owen, a senior attorney in the EEOC’s New Orleans field office, said the nooses demonstration calls for swift action.
“The noose is a longstanding symbol of violence associated with the lynching of African Americans,” she said. “Such symbols are inherently threatening and significantly alter the working environment for black Americans.”
In 2021, eight hinges were found at an Amazon warehouse construction site in Connecticut. Amazon briefly shut down the site after the seventh appeared.
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